The name Kwanzaa is derived from the Swahili phrase ‘matunda ya kwanzaa’, meaning “first fruits of the harvest.” We celebrate what its founder, Maulana Karenga, called the seven principles of Kwanzaa, or Nguzu Saba; the seven principles of blackness, which Karenga said “is a communitarian African philosophy,” consisting of what Karenga called “the best of African thought and practice in constant exchange with the world.”
These seven principles comprise Kawaida, a Swahili term for tradition and reason. They are:
- Umoja (unity)
- Kujichagulia (self-determination)
- Ujima (collective work and responsibility)
- Ujamaa (cooperative economics)
- Nia (purpose)
- Kuumba (creativity)
- and Imani (faith)
The choice of Swahili, an East African language, reflects its status as a symbol of Pan-Africanism, especially in the 1960s.
Every December, Community Empowerment Association celebrates Kwanzaa in the spirit of the seven principles. Hundreds of people gather to share in the festivities, including West African Dance and Drumming Performances, Children’s Arts and Cultural Activities, and even Community Building Awards. Those who can are encouraged to bring a dish of food to share with the community.